10 Best Movies About Martial Arts

Thursday, January 27 by Sasha Maggio

A list of 10 best movies about martial arts is great for movie nights with friends and family or even for date nights if you share an interest in martial arts and action movies. Martial arts movies have sort of dwindled from modern U.S. theater listings, but the classics are still holding onto fans. The following is a great list to build on.

  1. "Way of the Dragon": Written by, directed by, and starring Bruce Lee, "Way of the Dragon" is classic martial arts movies at their best. Tang Lung is sent to Rome to help his friend’s family whose restaurant is being menaced by local mafia. Martial arts film buffs will spot another famous martial arts superstar in this film as well! Okay, it’s Chuck Norris.
  2. "Enter the Dragon": Another classic Bruce Lee film, "Enter the Dragon" is also Bruce Lee's final movie appearance before his death. It was the first Chinese martial arts film produced by a major Hollywood studio, and Jackie Chan is listed among the stuntmen. The focus is on a martial arts competition on an island, organized by a mysterious man who is of interest to British Intelligence.
  3. "The Karate Kid": The list would not be complete without at least one "Karate Kid" movie. The combination of Ralph Macchio as a New Jersey “fish out of water” befriended by Pat Morita is classic underdog stories at their best. No one could forget Mr. Miyagi’s poise in the presence of John Kreese, the crazy “mercy is for the weak” sensei.
  4. "Bloodsport": Jean-Claude Van Damme may not be everyone’s favorite martial artist, but "Bloodsport" is generally well-liked by martial arts film-goers, and the fight scenes are worth watching. Underground fight rings, ninjitsu, honor and interesting training techniques make for an entertaining 90 minutes.
  5. "Best of the Best": The first movie in the series of Best of the Best films, starring Eric Roberts and James Earl Jones, tells of an American Tae Kwon Do team facing off against Koreans in a tournament. The film refers to the martial arts as karate, but don’t let that throw you off; the film makers chose to use the word “karate” instead of “tae kwon do” because it was a more commonly understood term in the West.
  6. "Kickboxer": Yes, another Van-Damme film, but a good one. Brutal fight scenes, excellent martial arts skill, and an entertaining storyline helped this film make a number of top martial arts films lists, including this one.
  7. "Only the Strong": While not a traditional Asian martial art, "Only the Strong" features capoeira, a Brazilian martial art that incorporates a form of dance, which the movie describes as a way of disguising the martial art practice. Inner-city youth, gangs and a former Green Beret played by Mark Dacascos make for an entertaining martial arts movie worth seeing at least once or twice.
  8. "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon": Incredible filming and a wonderful, mystical story make this one of the best martial arts films. Love and betrayal, amazing fight choreography, and the always beautiful Michelle Yeoh, as well as Chow Yun-fat, Chang Chen and Zhang Ziyi, make this an instant and forever classic.
  9. "Hero": Reminiscent of "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," "Hero" stars Jet Li as a nameless assassin claiming to have killed three other assassins who came after the king. A mysterious tale that holds you through to the end, and well beyond, "Hero" has beautiful, colorful fight scenes and gorgeous fight choreography.
  10. "Above the Law": While not fully a martial arts film, this is a favorite because of the aikido dojo scene in the beginning, with Seagal, in his film debut, instructing students in Japanese. The story focuses on a cop, who is former CIA fighting against the odds to take down a corrupt agent he knew from his time in Vietnam with the CIA.